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Showdown over abortion rights heading to the Supreme Court this fall

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The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case concerning Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in an abortion case out of Mississippi that pro-life proponents hope could result in a major rollback of abortion rights established nearly 50 years ago in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade.

What are the details?

The high court announced in an order issued Monday that it would take up the dispute, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The case concerns an abortion law passed in Mississippi in 2018 that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with some exceptions.

The law had been blocked by lower courts, including the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which cited Supreme Court precedent preventing states from banning abortions before a fetus is able survive outside the womb, CNBC reported. Fetal viability is generally considered to occur at 22 weeks or later.

The court's decision to hear the case sets up a pivotal showdown over abortion and is the first case to make it to the court from a wave of state laws meant to challenge the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion.

Many perceive the court — which now has a 6-3 conservative majority due to former President Donald Trump's three appointments — is prepped to undo legal precedents surrounding the court's controversial enshrinement of a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.

The court will likely hear the case this fall during its term beginning in October, and a ruling can be expected by summer of 2022.

What else?

In the case, the state of Mississippi is essentially requesting that the Supreme Court re-evaluate the constitutionality of the fetal viability standard, specifically as to whether it "protects women's health, the dignity of unborn children, and the integrity of the medical profession," according to a petition filed with the justices.

"It is well past time for the Court to revisit the wisdom of the viability bright-line rule," Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch wrote in the petition.

The legal challenge is separate from a litany of other state laws passed in recent years, including one in Mississippi, that seek to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often within the first six weeks of a pregnancy.

Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, had urged the court not to take up the case.

Hillary Schneller, an attorney representing the clinic, reportedly wrote in a filing that "in an unbroken line of decisions over the last fifty years, this Court has held that the Constitution guarantees each person the right to decide whether to continue a pre-viability pregnancy."

She added, "While the State has interests throughout pregnancy, '[b]efore viability, the State's interests are not strong enough to support a prohibition of abortion.'"

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